October 20, 2015

New Favorite Boardgame: Quoridor

I picked up this nice little boardgame called Quoridor at an ukay-ukay store not too long ago.  It was my lucky day; all the pieces were complete and intact, the board was clean and scratch-free, nary a fold on the included booklet.  Usually, the boardgames you find at thrift stores have a few pieces missing, and  you'll have to make do.  This Quoridor game is as spanking new as new can be, and for such a steal.

Designed by Mirko Marchesi, Quoridor is basically a turn-based game where players race each other to get to the opposite side of the board.  At each turn, you can do one of two things: either move your pawn one square at a time or erecting a wall.  The trick is to thwart your opponent with your strategically placed walls.  You can't lock your opponent, and you always have to keep a route to the other side of the board open for them.  But you can make his or her journey as circuitous as possible, in the hopes that the lovely maze that eventually transforms over the course of the game doesn't hamper your own token.

Face off!
Notice I said "lovely maze".  Ever since I was a kid I've always been fascinated with mazes.  In grade school, I'd painstakingly draw elaborate mazes on a piece of bond paper, the kind with portals that transport you back and forth both sides of the paper.

It must have been that entry about the word "labyrinth" in Webster's dictionary , and how in Greek mythology the grisly Minotaur was stationed there--why I'm so fond of mazes.  (Further reading into how the Minotaur and the Labyrinth came to be will lead you into topics of betrayal and bestiality, but I digress.)

The original Labyrinth

Anyway, there was that Labyrinth game we used to play on Famicom, based on Jim Henson's movie, which up to now I still haven't watched.  The game, too, I never did get to finish.  And one other maze-related game I loved as a kid: the Crystal Maze!, which deserves a revival.  Oh wait, they're doing that already.

But back to Quoridor, my new favorite offline game.  The game that Gigamic produced is so beautifully crafted, from the dark slotted wooden board to the wooden walls to the four tokens, the whole thing is almost a work of art.  Gigamic actually produces various other boardgames in luscious wood configurations.  All of them are deviously simple and fun to play, and you can just leave them on the coffeetable like some incidental decor.

What's to love about Quoridor:

  • Easy mechanics.
  • Easy enough for kids to be pitted against adults.
  • Takes about eight to ten minutes to play, so faster turnaround.
  • Requires a good mix of skill, strategy, and luck
  • Can be played by 4 players as well.
Online versions of Quoridor have cropped up, mostly using crappy animation.  This is one of those games that is best played in the real world.  

August 24, 2015

Tear-sipping Butterflies and Accommodating Turtles

My favorite photograph thus far, courtesy of Ama la Vida TV last year.  This would be the photo I'd send a photo to outer space for other intelligent life forms to find and know about our planet.  How two unrelated and non-communicating creatures of Earth can help out each other, feeding on each other's tears and loneliness, or something equally romantic.

In the animal kingdom, this act of sipping and feeding on tears is called lachryphagy.  Moths are also notorious for this, even going as far as injecting their proboscis inside closed eyelids of birds.  That looks nasty and invasive on a photograph so let's stick to butterflies and turtles.

July 7, 2015

Of Monsters and Ultramen: Google Doodle Pays a Tribute to Ultraman's Creator

Woke up at 2:30 AM today (Yes, 2:30 AM, we have a somewhat regular office job now, which takes up my time, which explains the infrequency of my blogging output these days).  So anyway, what do we see on my tablet but a nifty interactive Google Doodle featuring Ultraman!

Turns out it's a tribute of sorts to Mr. Eiji Tsuburaya, the creator of Ultraman, whose many versions only the die-hard fans can keep track of.  (Apparently there are more or less 38 Ultraman versions.)  

Anyway, back to Tsuburaya-san.  He's also head of special effects for many Japanese sci-fi films, especially when they involve wanton destruction of entire cities brought about by humongous monsters.  How we loved that as a kid, seeing Ultraman battle it out with the monster of the week, them trampling boxy buildings and trees and power lines, complete with ensuing sparks, fire, smoke, and debris. The entire scenario always looked staged and fake despite the very best efforts of Tsuburaya's production team, but that's okay.  Funny, we don't recall seeing long- and close-up shots of city folks fleeing in panic while a massive fight was going on above them.

So today's Google Doodle is a set of mini-games all that gets strung together into a monster film, whose horrific (or comedic) value depends on how you played each one out.  

May 27, 2015

Hunting down a pair of silicon pads for my headset.

Two weeks ago we lost the silicon pad of our favorite AKG headset.  The adhesive had worn off months ago, and we've repeatedly glued it back in place (both Elmer and Shelby were of no use), only to have it pop out when we least expect it.  This time around, on the bus, the damn pad came loose, fell to the floor, and was nowhere to be found.  The headset was a cheap one, just under a thousand bucks but we like it for the fact that it doesn't go all the way inside our ear canal, but sits right at the opening.  And we didn't want to fall out of love with it just because of a missing silicon pad and an exposed metal.  

Thankfully AKG sells replacement parts, but you have to get them at their service center.  We suppose we could have simply ask them to just deliver the pads to any of their concept stores, particularly at SM North EDSA, but we rather liked the idea of tracking down a couple of tiny rubbery silicon pads.  We ended up in Topy's Place in Eastwood, specifically Calle Industria, so-called, we think, because it was a headquarters hub for several other companies.  One thing we hate about going to Libis is that there's only one jeepney line servicing the area, and it's only via Cubao.  Yes, there are cabs, but we're scared of riding cabs alone.    

So anyway, much walking and getting up and down flights of stairs, we finally found the place, which turned out to be just a ho-hum office building.  There's a bunch of JBL, AKG, and Harman Kardon speakers stacked upon each other on the lobby, could be dead, could be newly refurbished, we couldn't tell.  They looked so ordinary and stripped of their premium feel which they usually have when they're displayed in the showrooms.  And to think these things cost a lot.  

The guy who took our order gave us a pair of the silicon pads, gray and smoky and translucent, and charged us 100 bucks for them.  And we left, happy because it's good to know that in this age of disposable culture, there are some things for which you can still buy replacement parts.  And we won't have to disown our headset after all, but we were left a little bewildered too because we travelled all the way to here for a couple of tiny things other normal folks can painlessly live without.  

May 4, 2015

Manny, You'll Always Be The Winner.

Come to think of it, we've always consciously avoided watching Manny Pacquiao's boxing matches.  Maybe we just don't want to jinx them, or maybe we just can't handle the tension because we wince at the first and slightest instance of Manny becoming hurt and compromised.  Or maybe because we're certain Manny will always emerge as the winner.

Today, while the so-called Fight of the Century was happening, we weren't watching either.  Our sister and our 94-year-old grandmother were glued to the TV, while we just peeked every now and then.  And each time we did, all we saw was a one-way fight, with Manny Pacquiao throwing most of the punches, while Floyd Mayweather vigorously run around in circles, dodged behind his gloves, and basically hugged him.  All the slo-mo replays showed Manny in his glorious, if slightly fumbling, fighting form, whereas his money-toting opponent was simply being elegantly evasive.  Turns out Mayweather's "fighting" style is what the judges are looking for in the Fight of the Century.

May 1, 2015

Play: The 7th Guest, Does Not Commute, and Implosion

The 7th Guest

Time for some spooky classic puzzler set in a horror mansion.  Long before all those escape-themed games came out one after the other, there was The 7th Guest.  And this here is the remastered edition to celebrate its 20th anniversary. 

(from Google Play)  
Henry Stauf's mansion has been abandoned for as long as anyone dare remember. Stauf was a master toy maker, a maker of amazing puzzles and this strange, eerie, mansion was his greatest creation. It stands empty, rotting ever since children started dying with his toys near them, ever since six guests came and were never seen again.Now, you are in the house, moving from one room to another, trying to remember and trying to forget. Because Stauf's game isn't over. There were six guests the world knew about - and there was one other. The mansion of horror comes to life again and only you can end this mad nightmare and learn the secret of the 7th guest.

Does Not Commute

Mediocre, the devs behind Granny Smith, Sprinkle, and our favorite aggression-therapy game Smash Hit, is out with a new game, with vehicles this time.  The goal is to drive cars around town, a new vehicle each time, but in such a way that you avoid crossing into the route of the previous cars you've driven earlier.  Just like those games wherein you create orbits of planets around a sun, hoping they don't collide into each other.  Does Not Commute isn't just pure, mindless driving around though, there's actually a story behind every character.  Nice.

(from Google Play) 
A strategic driving game from the award-winning maker’s of Smash Hit. Does not Commute is a temporal paradox in which you have no one to blame but yourself. What starts out as a relaxing commute in a small town of the 1970's quickly devolves into traffic chaos with hot dog trucks, sports cars, school buses and dozens of other vehicles. You drive them all. Plan ahead. Don't be late.
In this small town, discover the characters and their secrets – what world-changing experiment is inventive dentist Dr Charles Schneider hiding? Will Mr Baker quit his job in advertising? What is that strange mask on Mrs Griffin's face? Will Mr Mayfield’s peculiar obsession with Yorkshire Terriers take over his life?

Implosion - Never Lose Hope

From devs Rayark, Implosion - Never Lose Hope, is a heavy sci-fi action adventure that lets you play as Jake, humanity's last hope against the evil force XADA.  Don't worry, you're outfitted with the War-Mech series III battle suit, giving you incredible abilities, letting you dish out those fatal combos that feel good to unleash on your enemies.  Post-apocalyptic games with tightly-woven stories, exhilarating action, plus a lush music score from Grammy Award winner John Kurlander (who did the Lord of the Rings)--what more can you ask for?

(from Google Play) 

Bringing AAA console gaming experience to mobile devices.
Twenty years after the fall of Earth, the remnants of the Human race are once again faced with extinction. The time has come to justify our existence. A mysterious life form known as the XADA squares off against humanity's last weapon - the War-Mech series III battle suit.